On the Practical Value of a College Education

Ipsos is a leading global market research company that published a study, How America Pays for College: Sallie Mae’s National Study of College Students and Parents – https://www1.salliemae.com/NR/rdonlyres/BAF36839-4913-456E-8883-ACD006B950A5/14952/HowAmericaPaysforCollege_2011.pdf –  last August (only just learned of the report). Why am I commenting on this?  I’ve believed that since the onset of the recession, that families were holding very different conversations with their children about paying for college — and that this practical appraisal would trickle around to the “value-added” of such extra-curricular events as study abroad.  Wouldn’t leaving the country hurth their child’s chances of  finding a job after graduation?  Why not go for a paid summer internship – isn’t that more practical?

While the Ipsos study does cite increased numbers of families stretching their budgets to pay for college, they are, in fact, paying less for tuition thanks to increased financial aid opportunities.  But what interests me is the following quote from the summary:

This year’s survey shows an increase in the practical value of a college education to families. Ninety percent of students strongly agreed that college “is an investment in the future,” an increase from 84 percent in 2010. More than seven in 10 strongly agreed both that a college education is necessary for the student’s desired occupation and that college is required to earn more money, up from 64 and 61 percent, respectively, in 2010. Conversely, agreement that college is part of achieving the American dream declined for both parents and students, from a combined 51 percent in 2010 to 44 percent this year.

Will families believe that the chance to study abroad is of practical value to their child when he/she comes home in their junior year and is excited about going to London or Cairo? Can campus advisors provide the kind of narrative that students can carry home and present in a convincing way to their parents?

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